“Incredible Edibles:
Two talented cake makers create works of art to match your wildest sugar-coated dreams”

by Rachel S. Thurston

cake

Food and Home Magazine
Feature Article

            For years a highly sophisticated Hoosier, I thought cake came in two forms: the box mix or the homemade fluff cake with frosting and little plastic animals on top.

            Now, as a veritably refined Californian, I know that there’s more to cake than fluorescent frosting, skinny candles, and just “chocolate” or “vanilla.” Most of us, in fact, recognize that cake can be elegant, scrumptious, and creative: but did we ever imagine designer handbags, coliseums, fairies, mushrooms, and other fanciful shapes made of strawberry cream or fresh coconut cakes layered with Grand Marnier custard?

            Among a rare handful of cake creators, two extraordinary women are turning the cake world upside down with their artistic visions. These ladies’ mouth-watering creations are bold, flamboyant, demure, and even flirtatious…and they satisfy more than just our taste buds. Their gravity-defying cakes fulfill our wildest fantasies by stretching the limits of what these tasty triumphs of flour, milk, sugar, and eggs can really be.

Katie Scott, Pastry Chef and owner of Montecito Confections

            A giant Roman coliseum made of dark chocolate cake and encircled with delicate hand-made sugar archways…a chartreuse leather handbag complete with a tiny coin purse, magenta lipstick, and a monogrammed hankie sculpted from rolled fondant and royal icing…a towering gold-leafed pyramid…a white wedding cake with tiers delicately painted to look exactly like Wedgewood china…

            Katie Scott’s cake portfolio makes one thing immediately clear: she’s no ordinary pastry chef. With a culinary degree from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and over twenty years of experience in the business (including several years as the pastry chef at San Ysidro Ranch), her cakes impress the most eccentric and imaginative of sweet-toothed clients…and they taste heavenly!

            “You can make a cake look fabulous, but if it doesn’t taste good, then it’s a shame,” she explains. “I like pure, fresh ingredients that don’t conflict.” A few of her favorites? “Vanilla chiffon filled with a homemade crème brulee custard or a bittersweet chocolate cake layered with a Belgian white chocolate mouse and fresh red raspberries.”

            With the invaluable help of her decorators and bakers—Rosalia, Laurie, and Liane—Katie never hesitates to cater to a client’s particular taste or sens of humor: one unique creation was shaped into a bed and beneath the sheets were a grinning bride and groom, their wedding clothes—also edible—mischievously strewn across the covers. A more tradition multi-tiered white wedding cake was adorned with a cluster of red sugar roses. A closer look revealed a tiny trail of chocolate ants—each handmade—making their way down the tiers of cake to a tablecloth strewn with hundreds of fresh roses.

            Surprisingly, Katie never suffered from perverse fantasies about sugar and chocolates as a young girl—she was really a quite normal child but fondly recalls, “There were always cakes on the table at home…my grandmother and mother always like making fun cakes every year in the shape of baskets with flowers, trains, and animals.”

            Now much of her day is devoted to satisfying children’s and adults’ sweet-toothed fantasies. “I just marvel all the time about how excited people get about cakes. They go back to their childhoods…even grown men!” she laughs. “That brings me a lot of joy.”

Sarah Farmer, Cake Artist and Co-Owner of “Sugar”

            Farmer’s path towards cake creation hasn’t been traditional and it certainly hasn’t been straight and narrow. She’s an artiste through and through, with a background in fine arts, sculpture, and jewelry design. Her first run-in with baking—which she now leaves up to her partner and pastry chef, Kirsten Soria, was actually quite disastrous. “Ten years ago, I began working for Debbie’s Delights; I was horrible,” she laughs, “I burnt all the cookies.”

            Ten years later, she’s found bliss and her place in the kitchen. “I’m not the baker. I leave that up to Kirsten. She’s the artist from the inside out and I’m the artist from the outside in.” When Farmer first started out, working with cake proved nearly insurmountable, but “then I realized how similar frosting is to oil paints and cake is to clay and I was able to translate it.”

            Two years ago, Sarah and Kirsten teamed up to create “Sugar” with the goal of creating masterpieces of sugar and buttercream in the name of birthdays, weddings, and parties.

            Among their extensive portfolio rises a giant Moroccan-inspired wedding cake in vibrant cherry red, bedecked with iridescent pearls made of white chocolate, and tiny mirrors dusted with edible “luster dust.” One client requested designer high-heeled shoes covered in shimmery bugle beads, complete with a shoe box and pink plaid tissue paper—all edible and made of cake and sugar. One of Farmer’s larger projects was to create a small colony of pastel-capped mushroom cakes (12 in all and up to 3 feet in height) for a child’s Wilie Wonka-inspired birthday party. An especially challenging project was to to create an exact replicy of the Biltmore Tower for a group of architects, including its tiled roof, winding staircase and wrought iron balcony, all in perfect proportion and all made of cake.

            Farmer says she owes much of her artistic development to Debbie Saucedo and David Gronsky—the former and current owner of Debbie’s Delights—and to Katie Scott with whom she also worked. Without them she wouldn’t have had the exposure to cake or the room to stretch her artistic legs.

            “I wasn’t formally trained in the culinary arts,” Farmer explains, “So I was never told that something can’t be done.”

Katie Scott, at “Montecito Confections,” can be reached at 965-8150, or check out her website: www.montecitoconfections.com

Sarah Farmer, at “Sugar,” can be reached at 683-5600, or check out their website: www.sugar-cakes.com

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Copyright Rachel S. Thurston 2010. All rights reserved.
Email: rachel@rsthurston.com
Last Updated November 22, 2010.